Wednesday August 21, 2013

BRATTLEBORO -- Strolling of the Heifers will hold a public information meeting Friday, Aug. 30, to gather input on its pending application to take over the USDA Rural Development mortgage on the River Garden.

The meeting, planned for 3 p.m. at The Robert H. Gibson River Garden on Main Street, is required as Strolling of the Heifers and Building a Better Brattleboro, the owners of the property, work to transfer ownership of the River Garden.

Building a Better Brattleboro announced earlier this year that it was looking to sell the building at 153 Main St. and the BABB Board of Directors chose Strolling of the Heifers from among three groups that were making a bid for the property.

In 2008 USDA Rural Development gave BABB a $40,000 grant and a $140,000 loan to develop the former Rite Aid building.

USDA will have to approve the mortgage transfer before Strolling of the Heifers can begin working on its own funding to take over the property.

"This is going to be a long process and so far we are at stage one," said Strolling of the Heifers Founder Orly Munzing. "We still have to be accepted and this is part of the process."

Munzing said she was still not ready to disclose details on the pending sale, but she said Strolling of the Heifers and Building a Better Brattleboro have been meeting to talk about the property.

BABB still owns the building and has been taking care of the day-to-day responsibilities of keeping the Main Street doors open.


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BABB Board of Directors Vice President Kate O'Connor said the group is eager to finish the deal and focus more energy on supporting the downtown business community.

"We both want to get this done. It benefits both organizations to get it done soon," O'Connor said. "It was never in our mission to be a property owner and we are looking to get back to what the roots of this organization is: To help the downtown prosper."

"Building a Better Brattleboro and the Stroll are trying to make this happen as soon as possible," Munzing said. "We have to do work with the title search and inspections. This all takes time. We both want this to happen tomorrow."

Munzing says Strolling of the Heifers wants to install a commercial kitchen at the River Garden for events and she also said the group wants to have an air conditioning system installed before next summer.

She hopes the deal to purchase the River Garden can be completed before the end of 2013.

Even after the sale Munzing says the two groups will work together to support downtown business and create a vibrant downtown.

"Even after closing we are still going to have a working relationship," Munzing said. "We have worked together for years and will continue to support each other. Even if this does happen Building a Better Brattleboro is going to be involved to make sure the River Garden is successful."

Howard Weiss-Tisman can be reached at hwtisman@reformer.com or 802-254-2311, ext. 279. Follow Howard on Twitter @HowardReformer.